Road to Redemption - a Faith Series (between 4th and 5th season of "BtVS") By: Monet

DISCLAIMER: I do not own Faith or any of other characters from "Buffy" and/or "Angel." They all belong to the incredible genius of Joss Whedon.

Episode Seven: Here's to the Night

"It's done," Mahoney said to his boss, Relin. He walked into the office, a big grin on the short man's face as a cigarette hung from his lips.

"Burnt to a crisp?" Relin asked, looking up from his place behind the desk.

"Just like you wanted. I heard you got those homeless people's building really good."

"Anderson knows his pyro," Relin said with a huge grin on his face. "The warehouse was a hazard anyway. We were doing the city a favor." He leaned back on his chair. "Boy, times like these, you just wish you had a camera."

"You're not worried she'll be coming after you?"

"Yeah, I know she will. We'll lay low. Won't matter, though. Now she knows not to fuck with me anymore." He leaned forward again. "Besides, we might be able to get rid of her before she can find us, especially now that we've got something of hers on our side."

* * * *

If there was any a moment that Faith couldn't feel anything, couldn't comprehend anything, it was right then. Staring at the note in her hands, the letters in bold print were almost screaming at her - probably more like laughing at her, mocking her. warning her.

She couldn't believe it, didn't want to believe it - didn't want to think that in a blink of an eye, within hours, they could take Xander away from her.

But they did.

She was staring at the very moment before Xander was thrown into the fire - literally.

Patrick had said he had gone home. Something about surprising her - only Xander was surprised by them. She was left in horrific shock.

The man who had the clipboard earlier stared at Faith for a moment. He could see her staring at the note, not moving for a pretty long length of time. He looked around then decided that maybe she needed to be alone.

Wasn't the smartest move in his life. because right then, something snapped in Faith, something deep in her body and soul.

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the movement, and she was on him in two seconds. Grabbing him harshly by the throat, she hoisted him up off his feet, holding up the note in her other hand. "Who gave this to you?"

"I don't kn-know," the man replied, hanging there in utter horror.

She curled her hand into a fist and slammed it into his stomach, still holding him up and pressing him against the wall. "I ASKED YOU A FUCKING QUESTION, YOU MOTHERFUCKER!" she bellowed in fury.

The man let out a pain cry. He couldn't double over to appease the burst of intense pain. "I-I swear, lady, I-I don't know. I pr-promise."

She hit him again with a backhand to the face, breaking his nose on impact. "I don't want fucking PROMISES! You DO know! You fucking paid attention! I want to know who did this!"

"Oh, God," he cried. "I-I don't know. It was quick. I wasn't e-even looking."

With what was nearly a growl, she flung him to the other side of the alley. He flew the seven or so feet from one wall to the other. She closed in on him in quick, long strides and grabbed him again by his throat before his feet touched the ground. "If you don't want me to pound your goddamn body into the ground, you better."

"What's going on here?" came a voice.

Faith turned and saw two cops who had arrived for the fire, standing at the base of the alley.

"Hey, what're you doing?" one asked, not believing what he was seeing.

Faith didn't care. Not any more. Nothing much mattered except taking Relin and his entire group down. She held the man by his belt with her other hand and rocketed him at the other two men.

The man cried out as he flew through the air and landed smack onto the two policemen, making all three of them collapse in a heap.

"Hey!" one cops cried, trying to get up and stop whoever just did it.

But Faith was already gone.

* * * *

Hannah and some of her friends sat outside of Paul's bookstore, huddled against each other in the dead of night. Despite the entire loss of their one and only shelter, they still managed to find comfort in each other.

Rachel was asleep in the crook of Hannah's arm, holding the purple dinosaur close to her chest, close to her heart.

"Did they find out who did it?" Amber asked Hannah as she sat next to her best friend.

Hannah shook head, the shock of the loss not quite entering her body. There were still blackened sections of her clothing from her literal brush with death; but Amber was safe, Rachel was safe, and those others whom she has known as a family were okay.

A figure came stalking down the sidewalk, footsteps hard and determined as they approached the bookstore.

Hannah looked up in time to see Faith. She gently handed Rachel over to Amber and stood up. "Faith!" She nearly was ignored until she stood pretty much in the way. "Faith, is-is everything okay?"

Faith stopped, staring at Hannah as if she were a stranger. Her dark eyes gave her a once over. "What?"

Hannah blinked, meeting Faith's suddenly intimidating gaze. The woman hadn't ever seen something so fierce in the Slayer's eyes before. She decided it wasn't something she could actually stand up to eye to eye, so she glanced away slightly as she spoke. "We found Paul in the backroom and- and we came out here to wait for you. I-I was asking if everything's okay."

Faith slightly leaned her head to one side, the note and photograph still in her balled fist. "Does it fucking LOOK like things are okay?"

Hannah winced. "I-I was just."

"No, it doesn't. Your goddamn home just got burnt to high hell and Paul was in there getting his fucking ass kick! I just go off for two maybe three fucking hours, and I."

Rachel stirred a bit at Faith's sudden outburst. The little girl's eyes slowly opened, finding her mother and the Slayer face to face. She drew herself out of sleepiness more.

"You what?" Hannah asked, seeing something else besides anger flash across Faith's face. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Faith stated. "Just. just get outta here. All of you. I need to talk to Paul alone."

"Faith, if there's anything that I can do to help."

"Whatta gonna do, huh?" Faith snapped, narrowing her eyes at Hannah as if blaming her for something. "You gonna find some piece of trash that'll help me get what I lost?"

The statement was a very stab to what Hannah was, and not what she wanted to be labeled as. "N-No, I mean. that wasn't what I was trying to."

"Then get outta my way!"

Rachel stood up, hearing the angry words. She gingerly moved towards Faith, knowing something was very wrong but also believing Faith would never be angry with her. However, she was met with the same scary eyes.

"That goes for you, too, kid," Faith snapped, pointing at her threateningly.

Rachel stared at Faith a moment then shrunk away, huddling close to Amber and burying her face into Amber's ratty sweater.

Amber just stared at Faith, as did the others who stood there from under the blankets and other menial objects they could scrounge up. They didn't know how to react, what to say, if anything at all.

Which was fine by Faith. She didn't want to hear anything.

She gave Hannah one last look and went inside the bookstore.

* * * *

SLAP!

Faith slammed the picture and note hard on the desk, the legs of the desk creaking from the pressure. "I want to FIND these motherfuckers," she stated roughly to Paul who sat behind his desk.

Having recovered from the earlier assault, Paul looked up while placing his hand on the objects Faith put on his desk. He saw the twisted expression on the Slayer's face. "I'm not sure how."

"Don't fucking tell me we don't know where! You've got your fucking sources and I want you to fucking use every single one of them! I ain't playin' around anymore, Paul. These fuckers are dead!"

"Faith, please, calm down."

"No! Don't you tell me to calm the fuck down! They came here and they attacked you! You know what they look like! You have the goddamn tattoo! Jesus, what else do we need!?" She slammed her fist down on the desk and it cracked underneath it, making a dent smack in the middle of the desktop.

Paul felt the desk cave in a little. Any more pressure and he could say good-bye to it. "Okay, hold on a minute," he said, calmly. He had never seen her like this before. "I know you're angry at what they did to Hannah's place; I am, too. But we should take this." He finally lifted the note and the picture to his eye level and his sentence trailed. "Oh, God..."

Faith had stepped back, arms crossed but tensed. She didn't say anything; she let the picture and note speak for themselves. Besides, she didn't think there was anything to say for what she was feeling or what she was wanting to do.

"Did they.? What did they do?" Paul asked, his eyes staring at the picture.

"They burned down Hannah's place then decided to do the same to my place. Thing was," she said, turning away from him. "They knew he was there. They knew they could just bust into the place. goddamn door probably wasn't even locked." Her voice had grown quiet.

"So you think they torched your building down with him in it?" Paul concluded.

"Ain't that what they're trying telling me? Took their time and took a fucking picture of it! They put that building to the ground! Everything I owned in there. everything I-I." She balled her hands into fists and she lashed out at the wall, putting her foot easily through it.

"Faith - " Paul began, lifting his eyes from the picture.

"NO," she cried, grabbing the nearest chair and slamming it against the other wall where the door separating the back room and the main area was. The legs broke easily but she kept slamming it over and over again, knocking down books lying atop some shelves that also began to crack from her rampage and pictures that hung from their nails.

"Faith!" Paul cried, wheeling himself out from behind the desk. "Stop this!"

"No, they fucking didn't have to mess with him!" she screamed, roundhouse kicking the largest bookshelf against the wall. The shelves collapsed, making the books that he had spent time reshelving from when the gang came through spill once again onto the floor.

Only this time, the bookshelf was smashed to pieces.

Paul covered himself from the splinters of wood that flew at him. "Faith! Stop!! We aren't going to get anything accomplished like this! We don't even know if he's really dead!"

She stopped and turned toward him, flaring furiously. "What do you mean? He's dead! They killed him! They burned him! They don't fuck around - the note said that! He's gone!" The pain eating her at the moment was overbearing. She didn't know something like this could push her into this feeling of dread - of darkness. It was unbearable. "And I'm gonna kill every single one of them! ALL OF THEM!"

Paul couldn't help but stare at the Slayer carefully. There was something in her look that he made him slightly fear that she wasn't kidding around; it wasn't an idle threat. He didn't like the tone in her voice nor the reaction she was having. It was beyond something he'd seen in her, yet he could see it suppressed under all the leather and the tough exterior. "We'll deal with this, Faith, trust me."

Faith went towards him, narrowing her eyes. The anger, the fury, was almost blinding. "Then let's deal," she nearly growled. "The docks. You said something about it before. We'll go there. That's gotta be them."

"We're not sure who the culprits for that exchange could be," he said.

"We're gonna find out. Where are your keys?" She looked around his desk.

"Now, let's not jump into -" A hand grabbed him and pulled him out of his chair and towards her fuming glare.

"I'm not gonna ask again," she intoned, slipping the picture and note into her pocket as she held him there. "Where are your fucking keys?"

* * * *

They pulled up to the darkened area of the warehouses near the docks in the outskirts of L.A. Paul had convinced Faith to let him drive. The van was equipped for his disability in case Brandon wasn't able to do so.

"Is this the place?" Faith asked, focusing on the task at hand.

"I believe so," he answered, killing the engine. "We should survey the area, make sure this is what we're looking for before jumping headfirst into it."

But Faith was already out of the van.

"Faith!" he hissed. "Dammit, listen to me!"

The back door opened. Faith grabbed his battery-powered wheelchair and set it on the ground. She was about to shut the door when she saw something glitter in the moonlight. It was a large knife, jagged on one end. She reached in and took it, stuffing it in her jacket. No one who got in her way was getting out of it alive.

Paul opened his door and tried to crane his neck to see if Faith had left him. She appeared and set the wheelchair in front of him. "C'mon," she said, reaching over and pulling him into her arms, easily setting him into the seat. "You're comin' along 'cause you're the only one that can tell me what the hell is going on."

Paul was thankful for small favors. Letting Faith go was almost like letting a lion out into crowd of people. He went on ahead, the buzz of his wheelchair the only sound. It amazed him how stealthy Faith was. He had to turn around every once and awhile to make sure she was still with him.

They crept around to the fence area, peering through the openings towards the docks ahead. The cool breeze off the ocean brought in the sea smell, filling their nostrils. The sound of boats hitting the dock weren't the only things that filled their ears; there were murmurs and movement of things that were trying to be secretly moved.

"There they are," Paul whispered. He narrowed his eyes to get a better look then pulled out his binoculars. He focused on the six or seven people out in the open. Four carried a box, slowly making their way to a truck that was pulled up almost onto the deck. He couldn't see their faces, but some light hit other sections.

And as they crossed the last part of the deck, the dim light off the warehouse hit on the symbol on one of the sleeves of the men's jacket. It was them, alright. This was Relin's gang.

A sound caught Paul's attention behind him.

He looked away from the binoculars and faced Faith. His eyes wandered down to the object in her hand: the knife from the back of the van.

She was absently carving into the nearest wooden object, seemingly waiting for him to give some sort of signal.

The sight of the knife in her hand didn't bode well with him. She wasn't playing around; she was out for blood, for revenge. Faith on revenge probably wasn't the safest thing on earth.

She felt him looking at her. "What?" she snapped.

"Nothing," Paul answered.

"So? Is it them?"

He paused, looking over at the docks then back at her. Normally, he didn't think the gang members would be of any danger from just one person - especially one young girl. But it was probably a better idea, for the moment, to keep THEM protected. Yes, he did want to get Relin and his gang, but not the way Faith wanted to.

"No, it's not," he said. He turned his wheelchair around, setting the binoculars onto his lap. "It's probably some other smugglers." He began to guide the wheelchair away, his eyes not looking at her. "Let's go. Maybe we can go about it another way."

Faith stared at Paul, watching as he passed her. She rammed the knife into the tree, embedding it deep into its trunk and reached out and stopped the wheelchair by the back of it.

Paul tried to put more motor into it, but it wasn't moving. "Faith."

"Don't FUCK with me, Paul," she intoned. She pulled back and easily resisted the wheels that wanted to move forward. "Is that them?" She forced the chair back far enough so that she could see his face. "Is that THEM?"

Paul gave her a sideways glance at her. "You heard what I said."

Faith grabbed him by the throat, squeezing. "I heard what you said; it don't mean you're telling me the answer."

Paul coughed, trying to get loose from her. But she seemed to be out of control - out of her own control. Xander's apparent death was affecting her more than he thought it would. "Y-Yes," he managed to croak. "It's them!"

She held his look a moment, watching him to see if he was lying to her more. For a split second, however, all she could see was his face turning red. She let go. "Good," she stated.

Paul rubbed his throat and watched as she jerked the knife out of the tree and made her way towards the dock. "Faith! Stop!"

"Shut up!" Faith hissed, turning toward him. "I'm gonna find shit out. You just get ready in case for some reason, I gotta bail."

"Faith, this isn't the way we should go about it."

"No? Well, they shoulda thought about who they're dealing with before they went about it with me." She gave him one last look and continued down the darkened path.

Paul sighed, his hand still up to his neck rubbing it. He didn't know what to make of all of this. Faith had suddenly turned into another person, almost another creature all together. She wasn't thinking, wasn't listening. She wasn't planning to find out if they had really killed Xander, or if it was just all a trick to set her off.

Whichever it was, it seemed the latter of the schemes was working.

* * * *

Xander opened his eyes warily, feeling suddenly sick to his stomach at the smell that emanated to his nose right away. He coughed once and found he couldn't move any more than just his head. "Oh, great," he muttered, feeling his arms behind him and legs tied down to the chair. He struggled a bit more, but more as habit than actually believing he could break out.

"Hi there," Relin replied, entering the dank room. One lone light bulb hung above them. "Thought you'd never wake up."

"Wished I never did," Xander snapped, staring at the leader of the gang carefully. "We've done this before, man. What's with the rerun?"

"You're just so fun to capture," Relin said with a grin. "Plus, the game is played a little differently this time around."

"Oh? What, we have to stick our LEFT foot on green and our right on yellow?"

Relin chuckled at Xander's weak joke. "I'm thinkin' more your entire body will be in RED." He stood in front of him, hands behind his back.

"What's that smell?" Xander asked, sniffing the air.

"Sorry. It's gasoline. It's poured all over you. For effect. Only." He pulled out what was behind his back and produced his lighter. "Sometimes, we gotta do the real thing to make it look good."

He eyed the lighter, nervously. "Right. I remember you took a picture. I think I blinked in it."

"Yeah. That's where the fun began, Harris." He flicked the lid back. "See, no one's going to save you."

"And that would be because.?"

"Well, everyone, including that bitch of a girlfriend of yours, thinks there's nothing to save. Nothing but ashes, that is. Even then, I really don't think you'll be of any fucking use to her."

Xander stared at Relin, the gist of what he had just said sinking in. "You. made them think you killed me?"

"Yeah. See, I told you it was a roller coaster ride of fun."

Xander frowned. "Not to sound all childish and all, but you do know my girlfriend's probably going to kick your ass. She gets ticked if I skin my knee. And I won't even mention the friends I have back home that -"

"Then don't, please," Relin said. "Mention it. I know what your girlfriend is capable of. In fact, I found out a little more about her. She's a Slayer?"

Xander responded by drawing his brows together. "What's that?" he asked, lamely.

Relin laughed. "Don't tell me you don't know. Don't play stupid with me."

"Who said I was playing? I was voted Most Likely to Be an Idiot."

Relin pocketed his lighter and grabbed Xander by the collar of his shirt, twisting it so that it closed in around his neck. "I know you're not trying to fuck with me. I killed you once; I can kill you again, probably more painful this time. Sunnydale, what is that place?"

Xander squirmed in his seat, oxygen becoming an issue. "What, you haven't heard of it?"

"Vaguely. So I want you to un-vague it for me."

"It's my hometown."

"So what's so special about it?"

"Nothing." He cringed when he felt the collar tighten even more. "Hellmouth," he managed to breathe.

Relin loosened his hold a bit. "And the Mayor? What's his connection with that girlfriend of yours?"

"Do you really want me to go through that story? The guy was evil. He kinda wanted the world to end, or at least just Sunnydale."

Relin stood back a little, letting Xander go. "Evil, huh?" He chuckled. "So this is what the hubbub about your girl is. One of my guys overheard that she worked for the Mayor."

Xander clenched his jaw. "So?"

"Well, I thought she was a good guy. But I was right the first time: she was ba-a-ad." He grinned, the reaction from Xander exactly what he wanted. "But she was badder than I thought. Joined in with the big wig at the time." He really liked what he heard and what he knew. "I could use something like her. Now here's a curious question: what is a Slayer?"

* * * *

It was something Paul hadn't wanted to see, did not want to hear. There was some element of surprise but what happened after that wasn't something that he could've stopped. Faith entered into the fray on pure fury. He heard the slamming of some bodies against walls, falling into the water, and smashing into some metallic barrels. But what got to Paul were some of the screams. Grown men yelling for their life when they realized their attacker could not be stopped.

Paul backed away from the beginning of the path that Faith had disappeared down when the noise had dissipated. He craned his neck a bit to see what had happened. It was quiet.

He wheeled a little bit closer when he heard a voice.

"N-no! Please! No!"

Suddenly, a figure flew up and OVER the fence, landing in a heap right beside Paul. He jumped in his seat, looking down to see what - or who - it was. He winced a little when he saw the state the guy was in.

Faith appeared at the edge of the walkway, bloody and bruised. It seemed they tried to give her a run for her money - but didn't get the good end of hers. She held the knife in her hand as she approached him.

Paul's eyes landed on the blade and saw it was stained with red. "Jesus, Faith, what did you do?" he asked.

"Whatta you mean?" she snapped. "I got one of them to talk to us. We're gonna find out where I can go to kill Relin. It's simple." She reached down and took the barely conscious guy by the back of his collar, lifting him up by one arm nearly to his feet. "I think he's ripe enough, don't you?"

Paul didn't like this. And each moment was getting worse and worse. "Faith, did you. how many did you kill?"

Faith's eyes whirled onto Paul. "Why does it matter?"

"Those are human lives. You can't -"

"Don't climb on any goddamn high horse with me." She held up the knife, staring at it almost in a daze. "I wasn't aiming for anyone's heart, if that's what you're asking. Doesn't mean any other body parts aren't up for stabs." She lowered the knife and looked back at him, a coldness behind her dark eyes. "Let's go."

"Where?" Paul asked, following her as she dragged/carried the lone gang member towards the van.

"I got no home to go back to," she stated, opening the side door and literally throwing him in the back. "We'll go back to the bookstore."

Paul couldn't take his eyes off of the Faith that was walking around with vengeance on the mind. Yes, he knew that the day started with her having nearly everything: the apartment, the boyfriend, the friends. Within hours, it was all gone. And he knew the most important thing in her life that she absolutely cared about was gone permanently in her mind.

But there was so much investigation to be done. Paul had to believe Xander was still alive, somewhere.

One of them had to believe.

He just needed proof, somehow. but it might be too late by the time that happened.

* * * *

~Now as I look at myself I'm seein' someone familiar Starin' back at me through every deep crack that's in my mirror~

"Get out, now," Faith told Paul as she flung the guy into a chair.

Paul gazed up at her from the main area of the bookstore, ready to go into the back room with her. "I'd like to ask him some questions myself."

"Well, you can ask anything you want when I'm done with him." She held the door opened, but was poised to shut it.

"I'm afraid there won't be anything left of him."

She stared back at him, pausing a moment. "Well, I guess I can't guarantee that." She began to close the door.

Paul held up his hand against it. "Faith, we should ask him about those things they were smuggling in. They could be important."

"YOU can ask him those useless questions. I just need to know where his motherfuckering boss is."

"Faith."

"Look, you wanna work logic?" She held out her hand and ticked each reason with her finger. "I find out where the asshole is. I kill him. He doesn't go through with whatever his buddies were bringing into the docks. He can't do jackshit being dead. How's that?" Then she slammed the door in his face.

~And as I think to myself, I'm hearin' somebody else scream at me, I no longer hear from~

The guy in the chair was breathing hard from fright. He pushed himself as much as possible against the back of the seat, staring at the girl looking back at him. Sweat poured down his bloody face, wishing the guy in the wheelchair was in there.

She had taken down all seven of them at the docks. SEVEN. Two of them were 250-pound heathens. Relin had mentioned her to every one of them. He didn't believe it; he saw it. Now he feared it.

He knew he shouldn't have gone on the assignment; he shouldn't have made that oath with Relin of "no matter what."

~Could it be the unknown, Sneaking into my zone, Off we roam, My spirituals is not alone~

Faith approached him, crackling her knuckles. "Guess it's just you and me," she said.

"Pl-Please. I-I don't know anything more th-than what we were told to do." He eyed her fists carefully as she reached him.

Fear. It was all over his body. She loved it. She loved how it felt to make one move and be able to crack anyone. They tried to do it to her.

Relin tried to make one move to crack her. Faith told herself he wasn't successful.

She continued to rub her knuckles, watching as his fearful eyes regarded her fists. That's when she hooked her foot onto one of the legs of the chair and jerked it forward and up.

The chair fell backwards, making his back slam into the concrete floor.

~I'm visualizing this invisible clone, It's my own and its own, Rest assured it's my dome~

She stood over him, glaring down on him. "You think this is some sort of bad cop/good cop deal don'tcha?" She reached down and grabbed him by his jacket, lifting him to his feet. "But you're not getting outta here alive. You didn't let Xander get outta there alive; I'm just returning the favor."

"B-But I didn't have anything to do with the fire, I swear."

Faith shoved him against the wall, keeping him upright with her left hand. "Alight, then, you know who does have something to do with the fire. Where is he?"

"W-Who?"

She grabbed his forearm and with a simple flex of her wrist and hand, broke it cleanly in the middle. She watched as he screamed in pain. "You wanna play stupid more?"

~Maybe I need to go to bed, Could have sworn I just heard that voice up in my head, Nots while I raps~ ~When it hits me (ha ha ha ha....), But now it's laughin' at me, Yo, what the hell is happenin'? Please somebody slap me~

"Faith!" Paul called from behind the door, knocking on it loudly. "What's going on in there!"

"Shut up!" Faith called back at him. She looked back at her victim seeing him cringe in intense pain. "You wanna talk? You'd better be answering my damn questions!"

"R-Relin?" the guy asked. "You wanna know about him."

She slammed him once against the wall. "YES!"

"He's the leader of-of our gang."

Faith let out a frustrated sound in the throat and whirled around, throwing him across the room. He hit Paul's desk, smashing one end of it. She stalked over to him, grabbing the knife from one of the shelves and grabbed him again by the broken forearm, forcing him to his feet.

"I KNOW who he is, smart ass! I wanna know WHERE he is!" She pressed the knife against his throat.

~I just seen you yesterday, It's my fuckin' past~

He winced, biting back the pain in his broken arm as she held him by it. "Oh. I didn't know. okay, okay. uh, I mean.. Ouch, dammit!" Tears actually began to fall down his face. "I'll tell you. just please, let me go. It hurts!"

~Cause the tools that I used to break rules, Only seemed to confuse as to whose bein' abused~

She let go, pulling the knife away. She realized how the knife's hilt felt in her grasp. It was comforting. It was missed. It was wrong.

He stumbled but let himself fall onto his butt, clutching his forearm.

"You're so fucking afraid to die," Faith commented, ignoring the knife a moment. "Don't even know what it's like to feel it, huh?"

The guy looked up at her, confusion showing through the pain, not knowing what she was talking about. "Whatever we did, I'm sor -"

She kicked him in the face, breaking something. "Shut up! You don't apologize for what you fucking did!"

~I don't guess I. Need to introduce myself. Oh, so you're the match that lights my fuse.. Huh, I thought I left you on that cruise.~

He fell back, his nose in a wreck. "I didn't do anything." he whispered. "Please."

She stood there, seeing him slowly fading. "Where is he?" she asked, almost quietly, almost calmly.

~ Gotta get away from my past, If I make it, I just might last~

"At the end of Grant Street," he mumbled, trying to catch his breath. "A glamour. spell."

"You're not lyin' to me, are you?" she asked, going towards him.

He attempted to crawl away backwards, holding out his good hand to keep her at bay. "I promise!" he cried, desperately. "I swear!"

Faith gazed at him as he fell onto his side in pain, cradling his broken forearm. She held up the object in her hand, seeing the color it had become when she fought off the gang members at the docks. She didn't kill anyone with it; but she used it well. She slowly placed it back on the shelf and went over to the door and pulled it open. Paul was still there, lowering his cell phone. "Let's go," she said, not noticing it.

He peered in, seeing the destruction she had caused. "Good God. Is he.?"

"Why does it fucking MATTER?" She grabbed behind his wheelchair and began to push him. "I know where he is. You're gonna use the spell or whatever shit you pulled to find the first headquarters they had."

Paul couldn't stop her, even as he tried to put on the breaks of his regular wheelchair. Nothing was strong enough. "What are you planning to do, huh? Walk in there and try to get yourself killed?"

~Gotta get away from my past, Trying to escape but it's movin' too fast.*~

"Why not?"

* * * *

"Now, see, that wasn't so bad?" Relin said with a grin. "You knew more about Slayers than you let on."

Xander blinked back the tears that nearly spilled from his eyes, not able to hold back the pain of each broken finger on his left hand. "Ouch." he murmured, now knowing what it felt like to be a part of "The Sopranos." And now he knew why they always ended up talking.

There was a knock at the door.

"I'm busy," Relin called.

"Uh, we've got problems," the other person on the other side of the door announced.

Relin closed his eyes and sighed. He jerked the door open. "What is it?"

Mahoney blinked, sheepishly. "The smuggle. It got. interfered with."

"What?"

"The crew was trying to get the stuff in and. she found out and. got 'em."

Relin couldn't believe what he was hearing. "You mean that BITCH stopped them?"

"Bad. I mean, really bad. All six of them. Three of them got slashed up pretty bad, but they'll make it."

Xander could hear the conversation loud and clear. He liked what he was hearing - to an extent. Slashed up? That part wasn't so good on the ears.

"Dammit," Relin muttered, hitting the door with his fist. He then met Mahoney's eyes again. "Six? You said there were only six?"

Mahoney nodded.

"Fuck. I sent out seven. She got one. Probably did the same thing I did to her boyfriend here." He looked back at Xander, anger flurrying through his dark eyes. He went over to the corner and grabbed a canister, opening it up. "Looks like your Slayer girl is more persistent than we thought."

Xander looked up, warily. "I'm sure there's lots and lots more things than you thought."

"She can't find us," Mahoney announced. "We got the glamour working."

"Right," Relin replied. "That'll only hold over for as long as we've had since we burnt her goddamn place down. She got one of our guys, and she can get them talking." He held up the canister. "But we can get rid of the evidence." He began to pour the contents around Xander and the room. "Get the boss on the phone. Got lots to tell him. And get Anderson and some of his guys to get this place ready to get rid of."

Xander knew what was being poured right away, just from the strong smell. "You like fire, don't you?"

"Man's best friend," Relin answered. He threw the canister to the side. "Eventually, they'll find out your body wasn't the one burnt up in the fire. But I got what I want from you."

"Oh, and here I thought you were gonna let me go." He sighed. "It really sucks to have a low threshold of pain."

"Get one of the guys to finish this," Relin said, moving towards the door. "We need to get outta here before the shit hits the fan."

"I'll do it," one other guy said as he came up behind Mahoney. He was a big guy, dark shades and bandana around his head.

Relin looked up at the taller man, a little confused. But he shook it off. "Good. Make sure this guy's crispier than we made people think he is." He thumbed towards Xander. He turned back towards him. "Nice to chat with ya', asshole."

Xander didn't change expression much. "And I'd like to say the same to you, especially the 'asshole' part."

Relin chuckled and him and Mahoney exited the room just as the huge heathen of the guy closed the door behind him. "Okay," the guy said, rubbing his knuckles. "You don't think I'm gonna burn you up without my own fun."

Xander tensed. Just what he needed: to be in more pain before he died painfully. "Why can't it be quick?" Then noticed the guy didn't show the symbol of the snake like the others had been displaying.

* * * *

"Relin," Anderson called as the leader made his way down the hallway, already some pyro equipment in his arms. "C'mon, this was a prime place to hang. You don't think that one girl's gonna be able to take us all down. There's thirty of us here alone! We can take her."

Relin looked back at Anderson as they reached the first floor. He did have a point. From what Xander had told him, the Slayer was still human and still could be killed. "Send twenty of 'em down there. I want two of you get the rides ready, in case. I gotta speak to the boss, tell him how she took down SEVEN of our guys at one time." He stared a moment longer pointedly and went into his office in one of the back rooms.

Anderson shook his head. "Let's go. He's all paranoid. We'll handle it."

They reached the bottom of the building and picked up some members along the way. They gathered in the lobby of the building, looking at Anderson questioningly.

He held up his hands, seeing them with simple weapons like bats, chains, and knives. "Listen, guys, Relin's going a little overboard with this supergirl being after us. I know she can cause a lot of damage, but she's one person. There's at least 20 of us here. We'll be okay."

CRASH!!!

Before they knew what happened, a van plowed right through the front of the building, able to smash through some of the bricks that made up part of the walls.

"Shit!" Anderson cried, barely able to get out of the way of the front grill of the van.

The gang members began to scatter around just as the driver's side flung open and Faith appeared, determination and murder written all over her face. Not a good combination to see.

Paul lowered himself by the small elevator in the back and kept a little out of sight, closing the book he used to undo the glamour spell on the building. He looked a bit shaken in the way they made their entrance.

Faith scanned the crowd, looking for one person. "Where is he?" she called.

One guy reached her and tried to take her down, but was met with a harsh elbow to the cheek, breaking his jaw. She finished him with a punch to the other side and he was out. She barely had time to turn around when another grabbed her from behind, hitting her with a bottle across the head while another one slammed a bat into her stomach.

She doubled over but used that motion to throw the one on her back over her head and hit the guy who had swung the bat. She grabbed the bat out of his hands before he could fall and slammed it on his kneecaps when he sprawled out at her feet.

She hit his knees with each word. "WHERE. IS. YOUR. FUCKING. BOSS?!"

Relin emerged from his office and poked his head around the corner. He had a straight line of vision down to the lobby and saw some of his guys on the move towards a van and a person off to the side. "Shit," he muttered, his ear on the phone. "She's here! I gotta go, sir." He flung the phone towards Mahoney. "I have to get the hell out of here." He looked three doors down and saw the entrance to the stairwell.

Seven guys were already out of commission by the time Faith looked up and spotted Relin fleeing towards another door.

She threw the bat away, hitting a guy straight in the forehead and knocking him out.

"Stop her!" Mahoney called, pointing at Faith. "Don't let her back here!"

Three guys with knives followed orders and were the first blockade to be dealt with. They attacked her at once, slashing and stabbing towards her body. Anything to stop her.

"Faith!" Paul cried, not liking the odds against her. He reached behind him and pulled out a crossbow. He aimed and hit one guy in the leg, perfectly.

The guy screamed in pain and reached down at the bow sticking out of his thigh.

Faith took his knife away just as another slashed her across the arm, right above her tattoo. "Motherfucker!" she snapped. "You know I fucking HATE knives!" She jammed the hilt of her knife into the guys nose, making him stumble back. She then turned the knife around, blade out, and stabbed him right in the shoulder. "See how you like it, asshole!"

Paul held his breath, not knowing how far Faith was going to take it. It seemed already far enough when she turned the knife once and pulled it out, slamming it into the third guys' leg.

The three of them fell over, all in pain.

Faith stared at them, the blood seeping down her arm from the one shot they managed to take. She held the knife and looked at it then tossed it over to one side. She couldn't hold it for much longer. Just as she did so, a chain wrapped around her neck, closing in on her throat quickly.

She pulled at it, but it was thick and wrapped around her well.

Another gang member with a bat slammed it into her side four, five times, grinning as he did so while the guy with the chain held her in place. She dropped to her knee.

Paul knew she was in big trouble. He reloaded his crossbow and rolled around to get a better angle then fired. He hated doing this, hitting humans. He felt like a hypocrite but just because Faith wasn't thinking, it didn't mean he was going to let her die.

The bolt hit the guy with the bat in the arm.

"OUCH!" He quickly dropped the bat and reached for his arm.

Faith saw the movement from the side, glad no further ribs were being cracked. But oxygen was becoming an issue.

The guy with the chain was quickly looking for someone else to help him out. He tightened the chain even more.

"This is pissing me OFF!" Faith cried, grabbing onto the straightened part of the chain with both hands and pulling with all her might.

The guy propelled forward off his feet. He rocketed right into Faith and they both crashed onto the floor in a heap. The chain loosened around her neck but she was winded by nearly not having any thing to breathe. She coughed as the Chain guy tried to recover.

Another gang member joined in and tried to hold Faith down while she was in the middle of recovering. "Hurry! Get her down! Hold her down!"

Five others came in, pushing Chain Guy away from the pile; he was still a bit winded himself.

Paul cursed under his breath, trying to figure out how to help Faith out. He only had two bolts left. The book. Maybe there was some spell that would force some of them off of her.

Suddenly, two of the guys were flung off from the pile. They landed against the front of the van and slumped to the ground near Paul's feet. He looked up to see that Faith had managed to get one of her arms out and she was punching at some guy's face, harshly. It made Paul wince as she let out a shout and pushed nearly all of them off of her.

She got to her feet and unwrapped the chain that was still around her neck, her face bruised and blood coming from a cut right above her eye and on her lip. She even had more cuts on her arms and one near her stomach. She twirled the chain around, making the end of it hit three of them in the temple. She pulled an elbow back when another tried to jump her.

She twirled on him, wrapping the chain around his neck when she saw it was the one who had done it to her in the first place. She only wrapped it around once but pulled each end of the chain in opposite directions. "How's that feel, you fucking bastard!"

It was his turn to attempt to pull the chain off his neck. His eyes were literally bulging from his face.

"Faith, leave him," Paul said, rolling up behind her. "It's over. They're done."

Faith tossed the guy to the side and eyed the hallway where she had seen Relin go down. "He's dead! He's a fucking corpse by the time I'm through with him." Bleeding, bruised, broken, Faith didn't notice it all. She didn't notice the huge gashes across her arm, one deep enough for a few dozen stitches, or the large cut in the back of her head, or the possibility that her ribs were broken. She didn't seem to care if most of the blood on her clothes and face wasn't hers, but belonged to those that had gotten in her way. She didn't know if the gang members left in her wake were dead or alive.

At this point, it didn't matter.

She saw the door leading up towards the roof of the building and knew that was where Relin had escaped. Fists clenched, temper flaring, muscles tensed, she stalked towards the door just as Paul wheeled out in front of her. "Faith, stop," he said.

"Get the hell outta my WAY," she intoned, voice lethal.

Paul raised his hands as if that would be a way of holding her at bay. "Faith, listen to me, just let him go. The police may be here any moment; I called them before we left. I don't want you in trouble by the law. Let them deal with it."

Faith glared harder at him. "Like at this point I give a shit?" She fisted the front of his jacket and tossed him out of his wheelchair, kicking the chair over in the opposite direction. It smashed against the concrete wall, bending a good portion of it, including the wheels.

Paul skidded across the cold floor, a little winded but otherwise unhurt by her sudden action. He looked up in time to see her taking four steps at a time towards the roof. Relin was going to die by her hands; he knew it. But there was nothing Paul could do.

Relin reached the roof, breathless and now admitting to himself he was scared out of his skin. He saw the damage Faith had done to about two dozen of his gang members. He had thought he had seen the worst of her, but she truly had been holding back the times he had faced her. The boss was NOT going to be happy. But he would rather face the boss than who was after him. He had hoped there was a ladder that would lead down the side of the building.

"Shit, shit!" he cursed, his eyes darting around. "There's gotta be a goddamned ladder here!"

The door that had slammed behind him didn't just burst open; it FLEW off its hinges, landing a good ten feet from where it had been. And it wasn't even locked.

Relin swerved around, heart jumping into his throat when he saw the figure standing there. He swallowed a good portion of air, taking a step back, but trying not to show his fear. Probably near pissing in his pants wasn't going to help much.

"Look, I can't do anything for you now," he said, voice shaking. "You knew what was going to happen if you fucked with me."

Faith stepped closer to him, face not a mask of anything resembling forgiveness or mercy. "And you knew what was gonna happen if you EVER fucked with me." She lunged at him before he had a chance to move, tossing him towards the interior of the roof, away from the edge. He wasn't going to get off that easy.

Relin slammed against the outer wall that was part of the stairway. He was nearly knocked out just by that, struggling to get to his hands and knees. He felt himself being taken by his shirt and pushed up against the wall.

A fist smashed into his cheek, breaking it instantly. Stars danced around his eyes, and in that moment, he knew killing Xander - even pretending it - wasn't the best move.

"You killed him," Faith intoned, breaking his other cheek with a fierce backhand. "It wasn't enough you had to burn down my fucking PLACE, was it!??" She let go of his shirt, but before he could slide down, she snatched him by the throat, none too gently. "You coulda messed with anything of mine, but you had to mess with HIM."

Relin grabbed at her hand, trying to pry it off his ever-shrinking airway. But they were fingers of iron.

Though his useless hands weren't nearly enough to make her release him, just the movement of it annoyed Faith and she slammed her fist into his nose, busting it and breaking it on impact.

He yelped in pain, almost begging at the moment to fall unconscious. Blood dribbled into his mouth as he gasped for air. In a last ditch effort of panic, he lashed his leg out and kicked her right in the gut.

It was more like a mouse trying to fend off a tiger.

She grunted slightly from the impact, mostly from the already broken ribs. The kick irritated the fractures, but most importantly, it irritated Faith to the boiling point. "I'm gonna kill you," she sneered. "It's gonna be slow and it's gonna hurt like HELL." She threw him to the ground, kicking him into the right side of his body, breaking more ribs and sending him five feet from her.

She went over to him, driving a fist into his kneecap, shattering it. "How's that FEEL?" she asked, grabbing his throat again to force him to look at her. "Feels like a million things just shattered in ya', doesn't it?" She pushed him back down, eyes scanning what was available on the roof.

She grabbed him by the shirt again and dragged him like a limp duffel bag towards a broken bottle that someone had left while chilling up there with some beer. She took the neck of the bottle, and smashed the body against the ledge, making a nice sharp point of glass. She held it up under the moonlight, staring at the glint. The emotions outside of anger void from her expression.

Xander was gone.

The one person she promised she would always protect, would always take care of, would always keep in her hardened heart was gone.

Another one in her life - a life she thought she could live in and be happy in - snuffed away from her in a manner of moments. And she was left in a black hole. She had been scared of landing herself back into that hole; it was part of the reason she was afraid to let Xander love her like he did. And in turn, afraid to let herself love him and care for him like she did.

Relin stared at the bottle in fear, squirming under her hold despite the pain of broken bones from face to kneecaps. Talking hurt. But he managed a small whimper of mercy.

Her eyes shifted down to him, seeing that fear of death in his eyes. "You don't wanna die, do you?" she asked, evenly.

Relin shook his head. "I'm s-sorry." he managed to croak.

Faith stared at him, knowing she was falling into it again: the darkness, the feeling of being out of control. The peace was gone. All that she had fought for was gone, and this road of redemption she was striving to go down had crumbled the moment she found out Xander was murdered.

"Death ain't a fun thing," she said, almost casually. "You'll miss everything you built up in this life. All those people you ruined. All those people you couldn't fuck with." She tilted her head. "Sucks, don't it? Funny thing is, you were right: you told Xander one time that I've done bad things. And once it's done, I can't really go back. I had this weird ass train of belief that I could go back." She chuckled bitterly. "I could actually have things I could care for, I could love, even, and all would be right in my world. But no matter how GOOD I wanted to be, I'd just end up where I started. You were right. Because it's fuckers like YOU who just make it all the more difficult for me to have anything. So for bein' right and being one of those fuckers, you get yourself a prize." She smashed the remains of the bottle into nothingness right next to his head, taking it out of the running to be used on him.

He flinched, knowing that murderous calm all too well.

She smiled chillingly. "Death ain't a fun thing - for you. But the death of your sorry ass is gonna be a hoot and a half for me." She pulled him towards her, kissing him through his broken jaw and the blood from his broken nose, feeling him squirm from pain and knowing what was coming next, finishing it off with a lick of his lips then hers.

Not letting go of his shirt, however, she took her other hand and grabbed him by the belt that was holding his pants up. With fury and despair fueling her aching and broken body, she heaved him over her head, straightening her arms.

Relin squirmed even more, not caring how much it hurt him. His eyes widened as they approached the ledge, knowing what this powerful girl was thinking of doing to him. Already face down as she held him up easily, he saw the Friday night traffic 20 stories below.

"Say hello to the pavement when you get down there, will ya'?" she said, rearing her arms back a little.

"FAITH!" came a voice from behind. "DON'T!"

Faith turned around, her breath catching in her throat when she saw Xander slowly approaching her. He looked about as messed up as she did with the bruises, bloodstains, and torn shirt. "X-Xander?"

"Yeah, it's me, babe," he said, walking towards her ever so gingerly. His left hand hung limply on his side. "Let's put the guy down, huh? Leave the wrestling moves for.well, fake wrestlers."

"H-How.?"

Xander grinned, trying to be casual. "Never count me out just yet." He took in what she was doing, what she had been through, and what she wanted done. "Look, I'll tell you all about my misadventures, but you need to just not do this, okay?"

"No, he killed you," Faith stated, shaking her head.

"I know. But you can't do this, Faith. Please. The cops are coming; they'll take care of him and all his goons. Let's just go and leave him. I just don't want you to be here when they get here."

Faith knew he was attempting to protect her. But felt it too late. "I'm just giving this bastard what he deserves. He fucked with me! No one does that to me! Not like that." She turned back around, ready for the toss.

"Faith!" Xander grabbed her arm, pulling at her to make her face him again. "Faith, c'mon, this isn't the way. I know it'll feel right, but it's not. You're not like this."

She chuckled, her thoughts floating in the sea of the blackness that was engulfing her. "I AM like this, Xander. Don't you see? This is me! This is the REAL me. Not that bitch you've been with for the past two months. Sorry to disappoint." She turned away from him again.

"NO. This isn't you. This is the you that you've been trying to use to cover up what's underneath when you get hurt." He rounded her so that he stood between the ledge and her. "This is the you that isn't going to take over. You've fought too hard for this; don't let him do this to you!" He pointed to the person she continued to hold over her head. "You do this, and he wins. But see, he lost! I'm still here. I want you to still be here, Faith - with me."

Faith stared at Xander, almost not believing he was there, like it was some sick work of someone from above that was making her imagine what she hoped for. "You don't want this," she said, too calmly. "You don't want me because I've shown my true colors to you, and it ain't anything you want. These are my blacks and whites and everything in between. Now MOVE."

"Dammit, Faith, don't DO this!" Xander demanded.

"Xander, I'm not playing around! MOVE!"

"I'm not either! Faith, put him down! Don't throw all this away by. well, throwing HIM away! He's not worth it!" He reached up and grabbed her forearm, looking at her straight in the face. He lowered his voice, urging her to lower her arms. "Please."

For a moment, it looked like he had gotten to her. Her face had softened a little with his skin on hers; his face so near to hers, she could kiss him. He felt her try to pull away, and he let go, watching as she tossed Relin over to the side of her instead of over him.

The gang leader fell in an aching heap, groaning from all his injuries.

But the act wasn't to give in - but to continue. She grabbed Xander and shoved him towards the ledge, pushing him nearly off his feet. "Is THIS who you wanna be with Xander? Someone who'll hang you over the edge like this?!"

"What are you doing?" Xander cried, his turn to struggle against her. He turned his head slightly to look over his shoulder to the ground below. "Faith, don't!"

"This ISN'T who you want!"

He looked at her ominous eyes. But unlike those she had threatened before, he could see past them. He could see the scared, hurt Faith behind them. If he could just make her snap out of it. It was almost like she had convinced herself she HAD to be like this.

Faith blinked, trying to keep up her hardened expression, gripping onto Xander with nearly all her might. Not even she knew exactly what she was doing. Not even the sight of who she wanted could make her understand.

"Is THIS how you want me?" He stared even deeper into her, wanting her to know how so much of him loved everything in her. He refused to let herself immerse herself in it all again. "I've grown to love you more and more because I've seen all that good stuff in you. And I know this was hard, to go up against this gang and have everything you care for in danger. It hurts, Faith. I KNOW. I know you're probably lost, but you don't have to get lost in the dark because of it."

"Why not?" she asked, her voice teetering on edge. "I did it before. I can easily go back. It's bound to happen."

"It's not bound to anything. You feel lost, yeah. But the difference back then and now is that you know you can get out of it. Now it's a matter of letting yourself, and the people who wanna help you, keep you from falling."

"I can't do this anymore," she said, her voice growing smaller. "He tried to kill you."

"He tried. It didn't happen."

"No but." She let him go, letting him stand up straight. She took a step back.

Xander slowly, gingerly straightened himself up just as a figure appeared in the doorway, holding Paul in his arms. It was the same guy who Relin had left to burn Xander to a crisp, only that was never his intentions.

"Is everything cool up here?" came Brandon's voice from behind the disguise.

Faith was turned away from them all, deflated as if the day's rage and fury had finally worn her down to nothing. The dawn of a new day was slowly coming into the sky, and police cars could be heard in the distance.

Xander looked at Faith and carefully placed a hand on her shoulder.

She pulled away.

He sighed. "Well, I guess as good as it's gonna be right now," he told Paul and Brandon. "How'd the police know to come here?"

"I called them before Faith and I left the bookstore. With the glamour lifted, it will be easier for them to find." Paul gazed at Faith concerned. "We should go."

Xander nodded, confused as ever. "Yeah, we should. Come on, Faith," he said gently, forgoing any other contact for now.

Faith lifted her gaze from the unconscious Relin to the slowly brightening sky. She then turned and followed the others.

* * * *

Xander was the last one to enter the backroom of the bookstore as he and Faith needed time to themselves. It hurt so much to move, especially from the huge bruise on his side, but the silence on the way there was more unbearable than the physical pain. Something was more than up, more than what he had witnessed on the roof.

"Wow, what happened here?" he asked, then wished he didn't ask since it was obvious by the bloodstains on some of the furniture. He ignored it. "Hopefully Relin and his gang got the book," Xander commented, not sure how to begin how sorry he was that Relin had burnt their apartment, her apartment, down. "And hopefully it's a big -"

"This ain't gonna work," Faith interjected, facing away from him.

~ So denied so I lied, are you the now or never kind?

In a day and a day, love, I'm gonna be gone for good again~

"Excuse me?" He didn't believe what he just heard.

"You need to go." She turned around, her face bruised and cut. "I mean, outta here. I can't do this."

"Faith, um, confused here. I thought you'd be happy that I was alive. You know, ta-da? Defied the undefiable?"

She paused a moment, as if gathering her thoughts before she let the words come out of her mouth. "Wanna know how I really feel? I feel like shit. I knew this was all a mistake."

"What? Me and you?"

"Yeah," she said, though not as confidently as before. She quickly returned to the bolder tone, however. "You and me was the start of it all!"

~ Are you willing to be had? Are you cool with just tonight?

Here's a toast to all those who hear me all too well ~

"We're are NOT a mistake. You are the biggest non-mistake in my life! So what if Relin and his goons thought to use me -"

"This is why I can't love you, Xander," Faith snapped, jabbing a finger in his direction. The flood of emotions she had been feeling in the past 24 hours was too much at the moment. What she had felt, what she was feeling, what she almost did - what she needed to do. "You almost died - I thought you fucking DID - all 'cause you know me! And look. look what I did. What I almost did." She shook her head, her thoughts going to each and every fight she fought with Relin's gang. She raised her hands a little, the blood of others and of her own staining her skin.

Xander was confused at the reaction she was giving at the moment. "C'mon, Faith, that's not a reason to be this way."

"Whatta ya' mean? When you were. I mean when I thought they had." Her arms moved around as if she was trying to pull the words out of the air. She settled for just looking at him, eyes suddenly sad and almost defeated. "It hurt," she whispered.

Xander sighed, a wall having been broken down finally - maybe. "It's the life we live. And yeah, it's of the suck. But I feel that same feeling when you drop me off at the bar every night and you go out patrolling. I wonder what you're doing, if you're doing okay. The reason I'm Handling It Man is because I used to worry about Buffy a lot, and finally just had to tell myself she could handle it - like you can. Sure, I still worry, but it's life." He stepped a little closer to her. "And you're in mine. I've got good people in my life. Don't think any badness of any kind can outweigh what I have. Who I have."

Faith stared at him, totally speechless. The words got to her, pierced a part of the barrier she had built in the past day, but she told herself she couldn't let it. "Well, that's your life," she said, annoyance in her voice. "That ain't mine. That ain't the life I wanna live. That's not why. what I got out of the slammer for."

~ Put your name on the line along with place and time

Wanna stay not to go, I wanna ditch the logical~

Xander blinked a few times, hurt hitting him like a fist to the stomach. "I see," was all he could say as his eyes down cast. He shrugged. "Well, then, I guess you're going to do the patented Sunnydale Faith thing and put up those pretty walls all around you. The ones armies of feelings couldn't get to, huh?" He gazed up at her. "Even your own."

She didn't respond to that.

He put his hands up as if defeated and accepting of that. Only, Xander was far from it. "Sorry, Faith, you're not really going to get rid of me that easily. Nice try, though."

"No, Xander." She shook her head. "You better just fucking quit now. It ain't gonna happen," she warned.

He actually laughed out loud. "Not going to happen, huh? Shutting off emotions isn't quite as easy as you like for it to be. I'm sorry you were hurting when you saw your apartment and thought I was barbecued." He put his hand up to his chest as a gesture. "And I know you were hurting. I saw what you wanted to do to that guy because of what you thought he did to me. And I love you for it, Faith. For the fact you would do that, risk all that, because of me."

"I didn't risk - "

"No, you heard me," he interrupted to her surprise. "I don't care if you think you can stop loving me just because of all the danger that comes with it. Don't you get it? I WANT to be there all the way. I want to make your life just a little less sucky because you. you make my life this huge ball of. everything good." He lowered his arms. "You mean that much to me, Faith."

~ All my time is froze in motion,

Can't I stay an hour or two or more ~

But her emotions were off. She just continued to stare at him, not responding to it the way he wanted her to. Instead she just crossed her arms, and muttered, "Whatever." She looked away, pushing away months of being with him. Shoving them into a hole to be buried just so she didn't have to remember how she felt. It was too dangerous. This was for her own sake.

And some part of her rationalized it was for his own good, too.

To Xander, her one statement, that one word, was about as worse as plainly saying, "I hate you." At least with "I hate you," there was emotion and feelings behind it. To hate, one usually had to care about the other person in some way.

But to dismiss his open feelings toward her with a "whatever," there was no care, no concern to what he just said.

She just didn't care.

"You mean, all those times we spent together," he began, his voice even but losing ground fast. "That doesn't mean anything to you. All because of what could've happened tonight. You're going to have a sudden elephant moment and forget."

~ Don't let me let you go. ~

Faith stood her ground, despite the ache in her chest and stomach at her success. "You can take what you want outta what I said. But it doesn't look good to you, now does it?"

"But what about. I mean, all those times."

"Screw all that, Xander. It was a mistake. Fucking big mistake on my part." She shrugged, nonchalantly. "Sorry and all."

"Sorry? You just don't say 'sorry' to something like this. This is unbelievable, Faith! And I know you don't mean any of this."

"Well, fucking THINK again, Xander! Look who you're talkin' to!"

"I'm talking to Miss Marathon Runner, is who I'm talking to. Something comes up and you run. We've been through so much, Faith."

"So? You wanna cookie for that?"

He stood there in awe, awe in what she was doing after everything that has happened, then gestured towards her dismissively and shook his head with hopelessness. "Forget it. Just. forget it." He gave her one last glance before brushing past her and was out the door.

~ Here's to the nights we felt alive,

Here's to the tears you knew you'd cry,

Here's to goodbye ~

And Faith just let him go.

~ Tomorrow's gonna come too soon. ~

- END -

* "My Secret Enemy" by Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins ** "Here's to the Night" by Eve 6